Help with a History Project - A Checklist for K-12 Students

Are you a K-12 student looking for my help with a history project?  These guidelines will help me help you.

Sometimes your teacher will ask you to contact a professional scholar for help on a school project.  For example, your teacher may require you to find and “interview” a historian as part of your research for a project.  Usually, professors are happy to help young scholars.  But here are some things to think about when making contact.  Follow these guidelines and you are much likely to get the response you want -- from me, or from any other scholar.

1.  Tell me who you are.  Introduce yourself by telling me your full (real) name, the course you are taking, the grade you are in, your school and its location, and your teacher’s name.  If possible, I’d like your teacher’s email address as well.

2.  Be respectful.  You are asking a busy professional scholar for free help.  Most of us are willing to give it, but show us some courtesy.  A subject line like “NEED ANSWERS!!!” is not nearly as welcoming as “Seventh grade-student asking for help.”  

3.  Clearly tell me about the historical project you are working on.  What is the subject?  What are you supposed to produce?  A paper?  A verbal report?

4.  Do a little research to find the right scholar.  Historians specialize in different areas of history.  If you’re looking for help on medieval England, it won’t help much to contact a historian who specializes in the American Civil War.

5.  Don't start with a long list of questions.  It’s rude to start by simply emailing me a long list of questions you expect me to answer.  Instead, ask me if it’s ok for you to send me some questions.  I would be interested in engaging in a conversation with you; I'm less interested in serving as your source for free information.

6.  Be appreciative.  Scholars earn their living by sharing their expertise.  When you write to me, you are asking me to share my expertise with you for free.  I am much more likely to feel like helping you if you can acknowledge this, and can express your appreciation when that help is given.

7.  Be understanding if you don’t hear back from me.  I have many obligations and am very busy.  I do my best to answer all courteous emails I am sent, but my responsibilities often mean that I cannot do this quickly.  Don’t be upset or take it personally if you happen to have contacted me at a particularly busy time.

Good luck!
Prof. Rael